Annually, International Day for Conservation of Mangroves Ecosystem is celebrated “to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems as a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem and to promote solutions for their sustainable management, conservation and uses.” Across SIDS, mangrove conservation and restoration provide various benefits, such as fighting coastal erosion, acting as carbon sinks, and contributing to achieving a range of international targets and commitments, including multiple sustainable development goals. With the right support from the governments and the international community, many actions to save this important ecosystem have been ramped up more than ever.
Keywords: Rising Up For SIDS, green recovery, sustainable development, inclusive, blue economy, climate action, digital transformation, water solutions, mangroves, livelihood empowerment, telemedicine, blue carbon ecosystems, tuna, renewable energy
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of small island developing States (SIDS), with socioeconomic shocks expected to persist beyond the health crisis. Yet Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are also catalysts of transformation, rising to realize their strong promise and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. Through ambitious action, SIDS can build forward better, greener, and bluer. To support SIDS achieve long-term recovery and sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNDP has developed Rising Up for SIDS, its corporate service offer. The offer responds to the ambitions and demands SIDS expressed during the 2019 midterm review of the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway. UNDP's extensive country presence in SIDS is reflected in this progress report, which further highlights the organization's accomplishments and expertise. It emphasizes UNDP's work and results since the debut of the globally integrated service offer, as well as the rich and transformative development prospects that derive from SIDS' unique circumstances. The three interconnected pillars of Climate Action, Blue Economy and Digital Transformation make up the three drivers identified as accelerators of transformative and sustainable development in SIDS, grounded in a foundation of equitable, innovative, and accessible financial solutions.
A UNESCO study revealed that a whopping 73% of small island developing states (SIDS) are at risk of groundwater pollution, while 71% of SIDS face a risk of water shortage, a figure that goes up to 91% in SIDS with the lowest altitude, both due to saline intrusion. This includes the Maldives, where 80 communities have already declared emergencies and required water to be shipped from the capital in the previous decade. With tourism being the country's main economic contributor, the issue gets more amplified during the summer months. To address this, the national government, along with the UNDP and the Green Climate Fund, are building an integrated water management system that will make freshwater more accessible to the islands of the Maldives. The project consists of four desalination plants connected to large rainwater storage tanks on four separate islands and a water audit system that can forecast dry periods. Moreover, the government is also working on improving the quality of groundwater and reviving the aquifers. These efforts are just one part of the ambitious plan to tackle climate change, reduce greenhouse emission gases by 26% and become net zero by 2030, covering everything from improving food security to strengthening critical infrastructure.
Mangroves play a significant role in various communities all over the world. Not only do these ecosystems provide coastal protection,food, and income, they also shield the vulnerable from climate change by acting as carbon sinks. However, man-made activities coupled with natural coastal erosion have caused the decline of mangrove forests in recent years. These have caused low-lying communities, and even the bee population, to be more at risk with the effects of the climate crisis. To hasten rehabilitation efforts in Suriname - one of the most affected areas, the Global Climate Change Alliance Suriname Adaptation Project (#GCCA +), funded by the European Union (#EU), in partnership with UNDP, in collaboration with Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and other government partners launched Promoting Sustainable Livelihood through the Utilization of Permapiculture for Mangrove Rehabilitation in Coastal Communities in Suriname”.
The initiative aims to help beekeepers sustain their honey production by using their bees to increase the pollination of mangrove flowers, a replicable solution across SIDS. Since the initiative already complements previous man-made protective solutions, infrastructure costs are also greatly reduced. This would result in more mangroves and more honey products for the people of Suriname.
Good news for the residents of Manabao in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic: medical and psychological consultations will soon be easily accessible thanks to the efforts of the IntelliSys company and the Pontificia Universidad Madre y Maestra PUCMM. The telemedicine pilot project was also made possible through the support of the UNDP Accelerator Laboratory. eHospital was chosen to be one of 10 initiatives supported by the UNDP through Japan’s Digital X digital project accelerator, which funds innovative ideas that encourage the inclusion of vulnerable communities. The benefits include mentoring and support in software development, project management, and UX design and prototyping, among others. More than 4,000 people needing second and third medical attention levels are expected to benefit from the project. Through the eHospital platform, members of the Manaao community can receive medical prescriptions and follow up on their treatments in the comforts of their own town – not only does this save them time and money, but it also guarantees that they only receive superior quality health services even if they are far from the city proper. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, this initiative proves that digital transformation is an enabler of resilient societies. Manabao mayor José Rafael Abreu openly expressed his appreciation for the project team during its implementation. Experimentation Officer from the UNDP Accelerator Laboratory Jennifer Taveras further emphasized the project’s significance, which is to bring basic services closer to vulnerable communities – a crucial step towards sustainable development. She added, “…this innovative project that we have supported from our global network is a response to this challenge, reducing logistical difficulties. and economic to receive medical attention in this community, which we hope will be the first of many to impact.”
It’s an unfortunate paradox – despite having the lowest global carbon emissions, it’s the small island developing states (SIDS) that suffer most from the effects of climate change. The signs are already there – calamities have become more frequent, more intense, and more deadly. Add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix, and you get a surefire recipe for economic disaster. With lockdowns being one of the most effective ways to curtail the spread of the virus, many SIDS struggle with the downturn of the tourism industry. President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) H.E. Ambassador Munir Akram reiterated this further in April, claiming that the incurred debts are “creating impossible financial problems for their ability to recover from the crisis.” There is a silver lining, however. Climate-specific financial support is steadily increasing, with more countries prioritizing adaptation support alongside mitigation actions. In fact, in 2017-2018, financial support reached US$ 48.7 billion – more than 10% compared to the previous period.
Some SIDS have also made the shift to renewable energy sources – Tokelau is close to being fully dependent on renewable energy, while Barbados has committed to making the shift by 2030. Samoa, the Cook Islands, Cabo Verde, Fiji, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Vanuatu, on the other hand, are focused on increasing renewables in their energy mixes. Additionally, some Indigenous communities are redesigning age-old practices to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. For instance, locals in Papua New Guinea are substituting diesel with coconut oil while mangrove forests in Tonga and Vanuatu are undergoing restoration to combat storm surges while reducing carbon. SIDS have not only proven tirelessly how they can adapt to the climate crisis, but how they are increasingly the paragon of global climate championship.
SIDS are home to 11% of the world’s mangrove population – not surprising, given that they need all the protection they can get to shield them from the adverse effects of the climate crisis. What is alarming though is the rate of mangrove loss: approximately 40% between 1980 and 2005 according to UNESCO. Knowing how crucial mangroves are to the environment, especially as carbon sinks, these low-lying areas are at a higher risk of total destruction if this decline continues. This also throws away the “blue carbon” potential of SIDS, a huge waste considering how coastal ecosystems sequester carbon more effectively than forests per unit area and how this can offset their entire carbon footprint. Mangroves are generally fuss-free in nature, but having stronger governance and institutions are key to higher success rates. If governments fully support and back mangrove restoration efforts, not only would it result in higher chances of surviving natural coastal disasters, it can also bring more jobs and higher revenue. There should also be a conscious effort to educate the locals on the tradeoffs and socioeconomic implications of these kinds of projectsby including the people in the planning and implementation stages. In doing so, everyone involved is aligned with the vision, and will all work together to achieve the ultimate goal.
Learn more about Seychelles’ updated NDC that includes a suite of pioneering bold steps to protect its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems here.
For small island developing states (SIDS), the path towards economic development is marred with two things: the climate and debt crises. Building resilience to climate change and other shocks means tackling both debt and climate crises simultaneously. This will allow SIDS to use different sources of external finance to invest in resilience, diversify their economies and develop skills and capacities so they can be more ready for future challenges brought by climate change.
To help the younger generations in SIDS have a more favourable environment to grow up in, this policy brief highlights three intersecting routes that will result in more resilient and sustainably developed nations:
revisiting eligibility criteria and improving access to official development assistance
a fairer share of – and improved access to – climate finance
more debt relief and long-term debt restructuring
Reforms such as this one are developed with the commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement and SAMOA PAthway in mind. UNDP also proposes a more thorough assessment of SIDS’ structural vulnerabilities to external shocks. Its discussion paper, Towards a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, offers a proposal for a comprehensive take on assessing SIDS' structural vulnerabilities to external shocks. Such efforts, if successful, would result in a greener, more progressive, and more inclusive future for SIDS.
This is recognized as a climate justice issue. As we all know, SIDS are only responsible for around 1% of GHG emissions, yet they face some of the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. One important example is this tuna migration and its impact on the economy of the Pacific SIDS. As the tuna populations move progressively to high-seas areas, the revenues they reap from the access fees they charge other countries that catch tuna in their jurisdictions will decline. Now when the tuna are caught in the high-seas, fishing fleets from wealthier countries - mostly the ones responsible for the majority of global emissions- will benefit as they would not need to pay for fees to fish there. The most critical approach to sustaining Pacific Island economies is embraced by all climate justice action: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C by the end of the century through GHG emission reductions. Another pathway that can secure an equitable outcome is a regional approach that involves negotiation, through the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPF Convention). This approach can retain the rights to the historical levels of catches made within their EEZs, regardless of the movement of fish to the high seas due to climate change.
Learn how the US$10 million GEF-funded initiative aims to mainstream climate change and ecosystem-based approaches into the sustainable management of living marine resources in 14 Pacific SIDS.
We are only a few months away from the COP26, and the number of climate leaders pushing to phase coal out is increasing in size. This pursuit will help the world limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels— and an ambitious global energy transition will help us do that. However, at the recent in-person meeting of climate ministers, many countries still had not come forward with national plans on cutting GHG emissions in the next 10 years—an essential commitment to helping achieve the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Alok Sharma, the COP26 climate summit president, stated: “We were not able to get every country to agree to phasing out coal power, which was very disappointing. We will certainly have more discussions in the coming months …Unless we get all countries signed up to a coal phase-out, keeping 1.5C in reach is going to be extremely difficult.” The Alliance of Small Island States released a statement underscoring the importance of the energy shift in the economy and the environment, further emphasizing that there are alternatives to coal, oil, and gas. However, beyond phasing out coal and opting for renewable resources, the energy transition must ensure its inclusivity that can open up new opportunities and help end deep inequalities.
In September, the United Nations Secretary-General will host the first High-Level Dialogue on Energy in 40 years to help accelerate this shift. This historic event will provide a worldwide platform for governments to attract new investment and form new alliances in order to accelerate the energy revolution. The United Nations is seeking concrete proposals from governments, businesses, and organizations to advance sustainable energy for all in the run-up to the summit. These plans, known as 'Energy Compacts,' can be plans from countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, plans from cities to become more sustainable, or plans from businesses to decarbonize. To help countries enhance their climate pledges, UNDP established the Climate Promise that is currently supporting 118 countries (28 SIDS). A major part of this support is helping countries to implement a just transition to clean, renewable energy which will boost economies and create new jobs and livelihoods—this is now looking to becoming more and more achievable as the cost of renewables continues to plummet, public opinion backing decarbonization continues to soar. In this pursuit, partnerships such as the Climate Investment Platform helps in mobilizing finance to achieve the energy access and transition goals, that will help ensure SIDS are not left behind.
From climate change to debt, SIDS face severe structural challenges to their sustainable development. Some are among the poorest and most isolated countries in the world, with relatively small populations and narrow endowments of land and natural resources. This Economic Paper builds on the SAMOA Pathway, which provides policy guidance on economic, environmental and social priorities in SIDS. Complementing the vision contained in the Pathway, it offers a more detailed analysis and guidance on alternative economic development strategies for SIDS and recommends policies necessary for SIDS to build their competitiveness in new industries.
This report, produced by UNEP in close collaboration with the Italian Presidency of the G20, investigates the potential of NbS to help build smart, sustainable and resilient cities, drawing from more than a decade of research and experience from G20 countries and beyond. It offers an overview of the best practices of NbS implementation in cities around the world, and a set of guiding principles to improve territorial governance and establish multi-level governance frameworks to increase the impact and coherence of policies and private investments.
Produced by the World Bank, The Economic Case for Nature uses innovative economic modelling techniques to estimate how changes in select ecosystem services impact the economy, helping decision-makers understand the cost of inaction. The report also lays out options for nature-smart policies that reduce the risk of ecosystem collapse and are “win-win” in terms of biodiversity and economic outcomes.
This publication examines the current and future status of Marine Protected Areas at a regional level. It also reviews the commitment by governments to achieve 10% protection of important marine and coastal areas through effectively and equitably managed MPAs and other effective area-based management measures (Aichi Target 11 and SDG 14). The review takes into account the formulation of the CBD’s post-2020 biodiversity framework, which proposes, among other goals a zero net biodiversity loss by 2030, as well as providing a baseline for the post-2020 framework.
The webinar’s provided an opportunity to present, promote and discuss successful partnerships frameworks that have had concrete results in combining economic regeneration, protection and promotion of marine resources, within SIDS
Under the theme, "Sharing Knowledge For Resilient, Sustainable And Prosperous Islands Worldwide," this year's summit will collectively cover all aspects of sustainable development using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework and will emphasize the need for input and partnerships from across the private, public, academic and NGO sectors. Stay updated!
The GTI e_Convention will be focused on the integration of technology, policy and finance with a unique global platform where innovators, islands administrations, institutions and investors of the island world come together to identify the most suitable solutions to match islands’ needs.
The GTI e_Convention represents an opportunity for island stakeholders, solution providers, institutional representatives and researchers for training and updating on the latest development in innovation and legislations, as well as for networking and presenting case studies approved by the GTI e_Convention Scientific Commission.
Greening the Islands (GTI) launches the 7th edition of GTI Awards, which aims to gather good practices and innovations on islands to give them public visibility globally and foster their replication. The GTI Awards will recognize the best projects on energy, water, mobility, waste, agriculture, sustainable tourism, and governance & inclusion. Submission is open until October 1, 2021.